Wildomar moves to allow medical marijuana in its city

Once drafted, and if passed by council member vote, the new ordinance would establish Wildomar as the only Southwest Riverside city to allow medical marijuana within its borders.

In front of a standing-room-only audience, and after more than two hours of discussion and heated debate, the Wildomar City Council passed a motion during its council meeting Wednesday night that paves the way for medical marijuana in its city.

In a 4-1 vote, council members passed a motion to draft a new zoning ordinance to allow medical marijuana collectives to legally operate in Wildomar.

Mayor Bridgette Moore cast the lone dissenting vote.

Existing city zoning ordinances currently prohibit marijuana businesses of any kind to operate in Wildomar.

Once drafted, and if passed by council member vote, the new ordinance would establish Wildomar as the only Southwest Riverside County city to allow medical marijuana operations within its borders.

With the exception of Mayor Moore, all council members expressed willingness to move forward on drafting the new medical marijuana ordinance, but cost was a concern.

“I’m not opposed, but I don’t think we have the money,” said Councilwoman Marsha Swanson.

According to Assistant City Manager Gary Nordquist, the city has already spent $12,000 researching the issue of medical marijuana. The research was compiled in the form of a “Medical Marijuana Dispensary Educational Report” by City Manager Frank Oviedo. The report was received and filed during Wednesday night’s meeting.

In an effort to limit further costs, it was agreed during Wednesday’s meeting that Wildomar will adopt an existing medical marijuana zoning ordinance from the city of Laguna Woods, which permits cannabis collectives to operate.

Regarding adopting an existing ordinance, Wildomar City Attorney Julie Hayward Biggs said, “It is a relatively simple thing. There is not a significant cost.”

Several council members did express concern over a looming ballot measure that is slated to be put in front of  California voters in November. If passed, the measure will legalize marijuana – medical and otherwise.

“This whole thing could be a moot point if the November measure passes,” said Councilman Scott Farnam.

However, with no guarantee on November’s outcome, Councilwoman Sheryl Ade said, “I would rather be proactive so that we have standards and controls in place.”

The medical marijuana issue became front and center for the city after a non-profit cannabis collective, Wildomar Patients Compassionate Group headed by William Sump, opened for business on March 5 in the 33000 block of Mission Trail. Within days the operation was ordered to shut down by code enforcement. Sump abided by the order.

During a March 10 Wildomar City Council meeting, public comments in support of Patients Compassionate Group prompted council members to further consider the medical marijuana issue.

While Wildomar Patients Compassionate Group drew attention to medical marijuana, it wasn’t the first collective to apply for a permit to operate in the city. In January, Paula Carter applied to operate her non-profit medical marijuana delivery collective, West Coast Weeds. Her permit was denied.

More recently, Kyle Castanon, who heads the non-profit medical marijuana collective Alt Meds, applied for a permit to operate and was also denied.

At the request of City Manager Oviedo, all three applicants spoke during Wednesday’s meeting about their medical marijuana operations.

Oviedo also asked several medical marijuana experts to speak during Wednesday’s meeting, including Sgt. Eric Hernandez of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone. Councilwoman Ade inivited Christopher Glenn Fitchner, M.D., and retired Orange County Trial Judge James P. Gray.

Stone did not attend Wednesday’s meeting. Gray wasn’t present either due to prior obligations, but a Jan. 25 taped recording of testimony he delivered at a Lake Elsinore town hall meeting on medical marijuana was shown to council members.

During the public comments portion of the meeting, a handful of people spoke in support of medical marijuana operations for Wildomar; two people spoke out against it.

Toni McAllister is SWRNN’s lifestyles editor. She can be reached at toni.mcallister@yahoo.com or 951-234-0704. Follow her on Twitter at SWRNNaelife.

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